Series: Sundered World Trilogy #1
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse (May 26, 2015)
Length: 560 pages
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Veiled Empire is an ambitious story filled with complex characters, twisting plots, and more than enough action to keep every fantasy fan satisfied. In short, this is a book which aims for the moon, and even though it misses slightly it still lands among the stars.
From page one, Nathan Garrison drops readers into the middle of a quickly escalating rebellion. The mierothi hegemony over the world has stood unchallenged for millennia, protected by the Shroud above and by their iron grip on all magic, but now a serious challenge to their control has arisen, led by a mysterious leader whose motives seem pure and whose cunning seems beyond compare. The revolt which he unleashes well planned, far reaching and quick to gain more and more momentum.
Sent out to help crush the rebellion in its supposed infancy is the savage, brutal, and efficient Mevon, a magically augmented and highly trained killer of magic users. He and his hand chosen soldiers closing in on a group of mages in a search and destroy type mission. However, soon, Mevon’s unshakable confidence in his invulnerability and purpose in life are rocked to their very core!
Meanwhile, the leaders of the revolution begin to come into focus. They are mysterious, powerful, and determined to destroy the tyranny of the mierothi. But behind the noblest of purposes lie less altruistic motives, waiting to slowly bubble to the surface and affect everyone they lead.
Within the heart of the mierothi empire, there lie two friends from different worlds: Voren the valynkar, and his unlikely friend Draevenus, a mierothi assassin. The two drawn apart by their parts in the swirling events of the revolution. Voren’s life as a prisoner in a gilded cage quickly turning into a turning point in his life; his desire to survive warring with his guilt at his past betrayals. Draevenus also is torn, setting out on a shadowy mission to right age old wrongs and perhaps find a path to redemption for his part in his races enslavement of a world.
While all that sounds damn good, I have to admit completely overlooking Veiled Empire when it was released. My assumption being that this book/series was yet another generic fantasy/sword and sorcery hybrid which would travel along familiar trope lines and offer nothing new. Little did I know that Nathan Garrison had something more in store, determined to push the envelope, mixing and matching magic and combat, intrigue and characterization, world building and stunning twists until he had created a new flavor of fantasy. And I have to say I liked it quite a lot.
Like always, it all began with the characters themselves; several of whom I quickly grew to like and empathized with, wanting to know more about their past and their motives. Definitely, a few seemed a bit overpowered at times, or their sudden change of personality seemed a bit dubious, but overall, I felt Nathan Garrison did an outstanding job of creating realistic people whose differences were noticeable and did affect their choices and behavior throughout.
I also immensely enjoyed the world building. The mierothi empire was filled with a rich history, which — while only hinted at in broad ways — was still was very tantalizing, especially the ancient past before the Shroud sprang into existence; unique races populated the landscape; and the magic which permeates this place was realistic, powerful, and used in some cool ways. Now, I’m not suggesting the magic system itself is in the same category as Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn or anything, but, at least, the author built in enough quirks and surprises to keep it interesting throughout, which I can’t always say for some fantasy offerings.
Above and beyond all these great things though is the twisting, turning plot which Nathan Garrison weaves, especially regarding a few characters. This trio and their choices keeping a reader guessing throughout the narrative, wondering what they are hiding, what their true motives are, and when another subtle but significant twist is going to happen, causing the tale to speed off in unlooked for direction. Call it Game of Thrones lite or whatever, but I found it all really entertaining.
The only real complaint I have with this book was the characterization of two characters. I won’t go into details for fear of spoiling anything, but I just have to say that their sudden change of heart never felt very compelling or realistic. Yeah, reasons for the changes were provided, but they did not ring true to me.
All in all, Veiled Empire was a pleasant surprise. It was a novel I read without any preconceived expectations of its brilliance, and it turned me into a fan of its exciting fantasy/sword and sorcery style, tantalizing me with brutal combat, vicious intrigue, and more than a few touching moments. Will others enjoy it as much as I did? Can’t say for sure, but I do think more people should give it a try and see what they think of it.